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Coder's Discovery: Apple Self-Censors Rainbow Watch Face in Russia

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Aug 31, 2018

Russia's infamous anti-gay laws prohibiting personal expression that could be construed as LGBTQ-friendly are domestically draconian, but they also make things tricky in the realm of international relations. The latest example: The Apple Watch, which since June has had a rainbow-themed Pride face available for users, does not display that watch face if the user appears to be in Russia.

The Verge reported that an iOS developer named Guilherme Rambo confirmed what some had already begun to suspect: Apple has coded the device not to display the rainbow watch face "if the paired iPhone is using the Russian locale."

Rambo tweeted out his discovery and provided a screenshot of the code the prevents the Pride watch face from being displayed.

The publication did its own experiment, and reported as follows:

The Verge has tested this on an iPhone running the latest iOS 12 beta, and the pride watch face simply disappears once you switch to the Russian locale.

The report noted that an accessory to the watch, a rainbow-themed strap, is similarly not available in Russia. The strap is sold elsewhere in the world, with some of the profits going to "LGBTQ advocacy organizations," The Verge noted.

Apple also reported on the Pride-themed watch face not being available to users in Russia, noting that "Apple has long put itself forward as an LGBTQ-friendly company, as Tim Cook is one of the few openly gay CEOs of a Fortune 500 company."

Fast Company picked up on the report, and noted that Apple has no choice but to comply with the anti-gay law, which Russia passed in 2013. However, Fast Company said, this instance of self-censorship by Apple is "disappointing."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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